Tag Archives: constipation

Why Does Heroin and Other Opiates Cause Constipation?

Opioids and opiates are drugs that depress your central nervous system. This means your breathing and other bodily systems slow down. But opioids are notorious for causing constipation. Why is this?

Your gastrointestinal system also slows down when you take opioids. Not only this, your GI tract has receptors for the opiates that you produce naturally. The opiates and opioids that you take then bind to these receptors. This causes the usual contractions in your large and small intestines to decrease. Opioids may also paralyze your stomach so that it cannot process food the way it usually does. Food not only stays in your stomach, but opioids interfere with the enzymes needed to break it down. Even if everything else was working, opiates even reduce the urge to move your bowels. When you do try to move your bowels:

  • The feces are hard, dry and painful. This is because the longer it takes for the stool to pass through your large intestine, or colon, the more water your body absorbs from them.
  • You have to strain at stool.
  • Even when you do have a bowel movement, it feels incomplete. There is actually a word for this: tenesmus.

The constipation that happens when you take opioids can occur at any time when you are taking the drug. It also doesn’t go away over time like other side effects, because you GI tract doesn’t adapt to the drug the way the rest of your body does. Indeed, the longer you take the drug, the worse your constipation gets. Moreover, the usual remedies that help normal constipation do not work well when you are constipated from opioid use.

Complications of Opiate Caused Constipation

The complications of constipation caused by opioid use is rarely life-threatening, but can be very uncomfortable, and degrade your quality of life. Common complications include:

  • Hemorrhoids, which occur when the veins in the rectum or anus dilate and fail due to straining.
  • Diverticulosis, which are tiny pouches in the wall of the large intestine. If these pouches become inflamed, it can lead to a condition called diverticulitis. Diverticulitis can be serious.
  • Fecal impaction, which happens when a large amount of hard stool simply cannot be passed. This is often accompanied by a watery discharge from the rectum, nausea and malaise.

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Why Do Opiates Cause Constipation?

Constipation is having hard stools, excessive strains when passing bowels, infrequent stools, partial bowel evacuation, unsuccessful defecation, or spending too much time passing stool. Constipation has two common classifications:

  • Primary constipation, which results from natural anorectal function or colon defects
  • Secondary constipation that occurs because of pathologic changes, for instance, intestinal obstruction and medications such as opioids

 

Low fiber intake, inadequate body fluids, physical inactivity, spinal cord compression, high calcium levels, kidney problems, or diabetes can lead to bowel dysfunction too.

Constipation can arise because of pharmacologically-based reasons including taking opioids. Opioids are analgesics used for pain relief. Unfortunately, opioids cause hard stools. 81% of patients on opioids to reduce chronic pain end up having opioid-induced constipation (OIC) or opioid-induced bowel dysfunction (OBD), says Salix Pharmaceuticals.

How Opiates Cause Constipation

Opiates include prescriptions medicines for pain, methadone or suboxone, morphine, illicit opiate heroin, which doctors say leads to an opioid epidemic in the United States. Opiates change the way the gastrointestinal tract functions. The pain relievers prolong the time the stool takes to move through the human gastric system.

A person on the pain reduction drugs will have increased non-propulsive contractions across the jejunum or the small intestines midpoint. Consequently, the longitudinal propulsive muscle contractions can slow down affecting how food travels through the intestines.

Food that does not normally move through the digestive tract causes partial stomach paralysis or gastroparesis. Food will remain within the digestive organ for far too long. Further, the opioids cause the reduction of digestive secretions making the patient not have the desire to defecate.

The side effects of illicit opiates abuse begin in the brain with the victim experiencing hallucinations and later digestive issues such as hard stools. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medication methylnaltrexone bromide -Relistor or naloxegol-Movantik can treat OIC. The two medicines reduce constipation arising from opioids without affecting the patient’s brain opioid receptors.

Other reliable IOC treatment methods include the use of stool softeners, usually the docusate sodium (Colace). Increasing fiber intake, eating more fruits, whole grains, and vegetables help a great deal. Also, request a doctor if you can use daily stool softeners or stimulant laxatives.

When the stool overstays in the intestines, the body will absorb all the water in it, making the stool too hard and unable to move.

We have helped thousands of people detox and recover from Opiate addiction.  Call us today to learn more 800-737-0933